I met Takaharu Tezuka at the architecture student conference #People2015 last year where a small group of us paid tribute by wearing blue t-shirts. After his talk we snapped a couple photos and the next day I looked him up on Facebook to add, he accepted. Fast-forward to yesterday, I sent him a message mentioning I was in Tokyo for a few good days and wanted to see if he was available to catch up or recommend any sights. His response was to meet him at a station at a particular time, I accepted.

After meeting him at the station we went for a walk to one of his projects under construction, which was a temple and a future mix-used building. On the way we talked about decision to ditch Zaha Hadid’s design for the Tokyo 2020 stadium in favour of Kengo Kuma, and the overall process of the buildings for the games. He quickly showed me inside where I was introduced to the main priest, and he then took me over the road to a park. There was a gathering of the local community in which mochitsuki was being prepared, which is rice cake. Takaharu explained that once a year, before new years, they would spend time preparing large amounts of rice cakes which would be consumed over the new year period.

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A part of the preparation the rice gets repeatedly hit with a mallet/hammer, which I was quietly observing from the sidelines. Takaharu then insisted I give it a go, and I was quite nervous given there was a crowd and the fear of ‘stuffing up’ was real. In the end I picked up the hammer and just thought of the times when I would drive a star-picket into the ground with a sledge-hammer. I started hammering away and the small crowd started to vocalise, I wasn’t entirely sure what was being said but can only assume encouragement. After a few good whacks it was time to stop, and you can check out my performance here.

Takaharu took me back over to the temple and gave a more in-depth tour and even showed me the basement. Now I don’t have any photos of the temple for a couple reasons, one being the natural light was harsh and was difficult to find the right shot. Another being I was being guided by Takaharu so I felt I could not just wander around snapping photos. However the main reason was it is a temple and wanted to show my respects, if that makes sense?

Two things stood out from the temple tour, one thing was part of the brief the building was to last at least 400 years! That’s right, not 40, but 400 years! If a client in Australia wanted a building to last 400 years I don’t think the architect, engineers and builders wouldn’t know how to react, probably tell ’em they’re dreamin’! What makes it more impressive is because it is a temple it was to be constructed out of timber, with very minimal bolts. The main construction was using traditional Japan joinery and craftsman, to last 400 years! We build things out of bricks, concrete and steel and still only give the building 40-60 years, there is a lot that could be learnt here.

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We walked back to the station and boarded a train heading for the Meiji Jingu, a shrine surrounded by forest dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. During the walk he explained some of the history of Japan, the religious side and general chit-chat. Arriving at the shrine Takaharu noticed new copper roof tiles, a strong contrast to the existing weather-green. He then show me how to pray at a shrine, which was something I was curious about after visiting a few shrines in the past but unsure on how to pray. A quick lesson on some Japanese detailing at the shrine and we were walking back out of this ‘forest’. We parted ways, hoping to catch up when either one of us are at the other’s city.

Overall it was a great morning, and at times a little surreal. Here I was riding the train with an award winning Japanese architect and being shown his project. If there is something for student’s to take from this, you need to network. When I first said ‘hello’ and added Takaharu on Facebook I didn’t expect to be in Tokyo over a year later being guided around one of his buildings. In fact had I not did that, plain and simple this morning would not have happened. It could be as simple as saying a quick hello and asking for their business card, and emailing them a little later. It can be a little daunting but majority of the time architects are pretty chilled, everyday normal people who are more than happy for a chit-chat or a coffee. We did talk about some interesting topics which I’ll save to discuss in later blog posts, so keep an eye out for those.

I do wish to thank Takaharu for this time this morning and inviting me along to the Mochitsuki event. I felt very welcome, and got to experience quite an authentic Japanese event, which is partly why we travel yeah? And in case you skipped over the photos, yes he was wearing blue!